Two of the last illegally kept brown bears in Croatia have found a new home

FOUR PAWS rescues and transfers Suzana and Bruno to Croatian bear refuge


July 15 2019 – FOUR PAWS has successfully rescued two brown bears from illegal private keeping in eastern Croatia. On July 11th,  Suzana and Bruno, who are approximately 20 and 40 years old, were among the last five privately-owned brown bears in Croatia. With the introduction of a new animal protection law in January 2019, FOUR PAWS was finally able to free the two bears from their tiny cages. 

Suzana and Bruno have now found a new and species-appropriate home at the Croatian FOUR PAWS cooperation partner Bear Refuge Kuterevo. 

Once the new Animal Protection Act, which prohibits the keeping of bears in captivity (except in zoos and shelters), came into effect, the illegal status of Suzana and Bruno was validated, and FOUR PAWS was able prepare their rescue. The FOUR PAWS team on-site, led by veterinarian Marc Gölkel from Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), first rescued Suzana from an unlicensed family zoo in Markovac Nasicki and went on to rescue Bruno from another unlicensed family zoo in Cerna. Both had been cleared for the transport during a prior medical check. 

“Suzana was less stressed than expected before the anaesthesia and the rescue went smoothly. We are confident that she will soon recover. Bruno's health, however, is not as good. He is clearly underweight for a bear of his stature and his canines are in very bad condition. In combination with his poor health and presumably old age, it is important to monitor him closely over the next few months.”

Veterinarian Marc Gölkel

The team rescued and transferred both bears all in one day without any problems. Now, the Bear Refuge Kuterevo on the western coast of Croatia, the facility that received the bears, will make sure that Suzana and Bruno receive all the care they need. While another transfer might prove too exhausting for senior bear Bruno, FOUR PAWS is planning to bring Suzana to one of its own bear sanctuaries in the future.

One step closer to the ending the illegal private keeping of bears in Croatia

At present, three other bears are being kept in conditions unsuited to their species near a restaurant and in one unlicensed mini zoo in Croatia. FOUR PAWS is monitoring the progress on the legal status of these bears and, together with its cooperation partner Bear Refuge Kuterevo, is ready to provide a temporary or lasting home for them as well. 

FOUR PAWS already supported the Croatian bear refuge in 2015 financially and with their expertise regarding the construction of one enclosure and species-appropriate bear management. With the arrival of Suzana and Bruno, the support will continue. 

“We are grateful for the good cooperation with the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture and the local support we have received from Animal Friends Croatia. Thanks to our shared efforts, two more bears can now live in species-appropriate surroundings and enjoy a happy life.” 

Carsten Hertwig, Bear Expert at FOUR PAWS 

'Save the Saddest Bears' Campaign: End Bear Suffering in Europe

Many bears in Europe spend their lives in agonizing surroundings, kept in tiny cages near restaurants or hotels, where they are exhibited as tourist attractions. The cramped, inappropriate living conditions are very stressful for the animals both physically and mentally. FOUR PAWS intends to put an end to the cruel keeping of bears in Croatia as part of its 'Saddest Bears' campaign. Read more:

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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